Why Pay For Microsoft Office?

I’m sure most of you know that I am an Ubuntu user predominately. Therefore, I don’t really use Microsoft Office, however – I still do use Microsoft Office on my work Laptop (it runs Windows 7) and I have used it for many year since the 1997 version. But is Microsoft Office worth the £250+ price tag that you pay for some versions? In short, the answer is NO.

This is because there are free alternatives to Microsoft Office that can do everything Microsoft Office can do and more. Let’s set the scene – you’ve just bought a shiny new computer from PC World, let’s say it’s a mid-range one and you have spent £500 on it. You boot it up and the first thing you do is go to open Outlook in order to setup your emails, oh, this doesn’t come with Outlook (or Office for that matter). So now you have to go out and spend another £150 minimum for a version of Microsoft Office that comes with Outlook – not a good start really is it.

It gets worse – if you use databases then you will need Microsoft Access – this is only available on the Professional version of Office and above. On Amazon, Office 2010 Professional is currently listed as being £223.19 for the OEM version. If your machine is more than 90 days old then you need the retail version which is a whopping £323.19!

So what is this free alternative that I am talking about and can it really be as good as a £300+ product from Microsoft? The product I am talking about is LibreOffice. LibreOffice is an OpenSource productivity suite, it is the default suite for Ubuntu and many other Linux distributions but there are also versions available for both Mac & Windows – all free of course.

The simple answer to the question “Is it as good as Microsoft Office?” is yes. It’s lighter on your system, easier to use, has all the same features as Microsoft Office and finally, the best part – it’s 100% compatible with Microsoft Office. So if you have Word documents, Excel spreadsheets or Powerpoint presentations – you can open and edit them all in LibreOffice, just like you would in Microsoft Office.

Katherine Noyes, writer for PCWorld kindly provided a quote to RefuGeeks on her thoughts about LibreOffice:

[quote]As a writer, I’m pretty fussy about the word processor I use, since I basically live in it all day and have to exchange files with editors around the globe. I switched to LibreOffice soon after it was forked from OpenOffice.org (which I used before that, after switching from Microsoft Office a few years previously), and have loved it ever since. It’s a great, solid package with all the benefits of open source, and I’ve never had any problems with compatibility. I’m also excited about the project’s vision and direction — it’s so active, and it just keeps getting better. To me, LibreOffice is in many ways the epitome of the vibrant, energetic and successful open source project.[/quote]

LibreOffice comes with alternative packages for Word (LibreOffice Writer), Excel (LibreOffice Calc), Powerpoint (LibreOffice Impress), Publisher (LibreOffice Draw) & finally Access (LibreOffice Base). The LibreOffice team are also working on both online and mobile versions of the program.

The only thing missing is Outlook for email – that’s an easy one, Thunderbird is the way to go. Thunderbird is made by Mozilla, the same people that make Firefox. It’s a fantastic, free email client that works just as well as Outlook in every way. I am a very heavy email user, so I know both Outlook and Thunderbird extremely well. In my professional opinion (as I am an IT professional after all), Thunderbird is a superior product to Outlook. It has all the same features – Calendars, Contacts, POP, IMAP & Exchange connectivity as well as a tonne of other features via the use of addons. It’s also a lot lighter than Outlook so won’t slow your machine down as much.


Microsoft Office is an excellent product, there’s no doubt about that. But I really don’t think it is worth the extortionate price that Microsoft put on it. Thankfully, there are amazing, free alternatives to Microsoft Office that we’re all free to use – so we’re not forced to pay these crazy prices. Have you tried LibreOffice and Thunderbird? Which do you prefer?

Why Pay For Microsoft Office?
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  • Erik Wasmund

    LibreOffice is an excellent alternative to MS Office. My company uses it at my location instead of paying for MS licenses. The only issue that I have run into is .xls files that are using macros. They do not play well with LibreOffice at all and I don’t believe there are any plugins that will allow LibreOffice to handle them.

    Even with this limitation I have no problem recommending LibreOffice to anyone who needs a good office suite.